Have you spent months planning out your training, doing speed sessions and long runs, resting and being consumed with thoughts of race day? Now that race day is almost here, what is your plan for race recovery? Knowing how to recover is just as important as knowing how to race. You put the time into training and are ready for race day. Now is the time to learn how to recover to get back on your feet faster.
Follow these steps and your body, mind and soul will recover better and faster for your next race.
Walk around: Don’t sit down after the race, walk around. Keep the blood flowing by walking around for around 10 to 15 minutes post-race; then proceed to spend that same amount of time stretching. Stopping too soon after a long run might cause fainting or leg cramps, which can damage your muscle tissue. Walking around will allow you to enjoy the activities surrounding the race. Walking later in the afternoon after a long race can also be beneficial to your body’s blood flow.
Eat: Grab water and a balanced snack that includes carbohydrates, protein, and some fat about 30 to 60 minutes after the race to start replenishing your glycogen storage (your body’s tank for stability, taste, hydration potential and satiety). If your stomach can’t handle food right after you finish, grab a sports drink or chocolate milk instead as theses options both have a health mix of electrolytes, sugar and calories.
Rest: Not only do you deserve a few days of rest before you get back to pounding the pavement, but your body needs it. If you head back out on the open road or treadmill too soon, you may risk the possibility of a bad workouts and increase your chance of injury. Don’t feel like you are going to lose your hard-earned endurance and fitness levels, as a few days of rest is just what your body needs. If you just can’t stay away, go for a short walk or do some stretching to feed your desire to move.
Recover: Take advantage of the free massage often offered at running events. Once you get home, take an ice bath, and do some gentle stretching to help decrease that pain/soreness from all that repetitive pounding on your legs. All of these activities aid in your body’s circulation, which allows a natural cycle of bringing new nutrients to over-worked parts of your body.
Dealing with your feelings: Don’t be concerned if you feel fatigued after the big race. You just put your body through a lot of stress to cross that finish line. Long-distance runners should be aware that light depression might set in post-jaunt. Why? Your body experiences a huge dip in endorphins from the time you complete your race and a few hours after.
You just put in months of training and now all that hard work is over. You might feel lost without the training, especially if you were meeting a group to train each week.
Reflect: Reflect on what went well on race day and with your training. Look also at what didn’t work and what you could have improved on for your next race. Each race should be a learning experience, positive or negative.
Celebrate: There are very few feats than running a long distance race, so take it upon yourself to celebrate your victorious run–no matter what time you clocked in at. No one can take the feeling of that last stride across the finish line away from you–so cherish it!
Recovery begins right when you finish that race. Now you have a plan not only to race well, but to recover quickly and to get back on your feet in no time.
By Kristin Gustafson Exercise Science and Wellness Coordinator, Rasmussen College, for Active.com